None of these players finished No. 1 in their respective recruiting classes but they all earned the runner-up award. After examining their careers – and how the top-rated prospects in some classes performed – some had an argument to be No. 1 while others didn’t pan out as much.
In our continuing series this week remembering the first 20 recruiting classes at Rivals.com, we take a look at each prospect who finished No. 2 in the rankings:
2002 – HALOTI NGATA
The only prospect ranked higher than Ngata in the inaugural Rivals recruiting class was a five-star quarterback named Vincent Young from Houston (Texas) Madison who went on to an illustrious college career as well. Oregon beat out BYU and others for Ngata, who was also a star rugby player in high school. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Ngata had an NFL career that spanned more than a decade where he was a Super Bowl champ, five-time Pro Bowl selection and finished with 515 tackles and 32.5 sacks.
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2003 – REGGIE BUSH
USC was always considered the favorite for Bush, who picked the Trojans over Stanford, Texas and Notre Dame at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. From the Bush Push to winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005 (vacated), to a controversial NCAA investigation focused on his time at USC, Bush is arguably the most illustrious No. 2 ever in Rivals history. The second overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Bush finished his pro career with 9,088 total yards and 58 touchdowns.
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2004 – THEODORE GINN JR.
Ohio State was considered the favorite for a while and that was confirmed at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl when Ginn committed to the Buckeyes over Michigan, USC, Miami and others. Ranked as a cornerback and behind only RB Adrian Peterson in the 2004 class, Ginn moved to receiver at Ohio State and then was the ninth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. His pro career has spanned more than a decade where he’s been used all over on offense and Ginn has totaled 412 catches for 15,751 yards and 42 total TDs.
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2005 – PATRICK TURNER
It would be fair to say Turner and No. 1 overall Derrick Williams did not live up to expectations throughout their career. Turner picked USC over Tennessee in a heated recruiting battle where the five-star was supposed to take a late visit to Knoxville but that didn’t happen. He had a decent career at USC but was behind other elite receivers and then ended up as a third-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. He lasted only one year with the Miami Dolphins and then from 2010-2012 with the New York Jets before his pro career ended.
2006 – ANDRE SMITH
Ranked behind only Percy Harvin in the 2006 class, Smith picked Alabama as expected but did so by not choosing from any of the hats on the table in front of him. Instead, he pulled out a houndstooth hat ala Bear Bryant and it was clear the Crimson Tide were the big winners in his recruitment. Smith was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Smith is still playing in the NFL now with the Baltimore Ravens and he has played in 116 games.
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2007 – JOE MCKNIGHT
McKnight is one of the rare examples of the top-rated prospect from the state of Louisiana not picking LSU as he chose USC over the Tigers. The five-star had a mixed career at USC where he rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Trojans but also had medical and off-the-field issues. McKnight was a fourth-round pick and played in the NFL for four seasons before heading off to the CFL. On Dec. 1, 2016 McKnight was shot and killed in a road rage incident in Terrytown, La.
2008 – DA’QUAN BOWERS
Clemson was the childhood favorite and Bowers committed to the Tigers early in his high school career although South Carolina and others were also involved. Ranked behind only Terrelle Pryor, Bowers posted 150 tackles and 19.5 sacks in three seasons before leaving for the NFL where he was a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Bowers had injury issues and after five years in Tampa Bay he went to the CFL before retiring from football. He ended his pro career with 69 tackles and seven sacks. He’s currently the defensive line coach at USF.
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2009 – RUEBEN RANDLE
Rated behind only Bryce Brown in the 2009 class, Randle picked LSU over Alabama, Oklahoma and others although many believe he was going to play for the Crimson Tide. Randle was the do-it-all type who played quarterback in his senior year before going to LSU and putting up big numbers for three seasons. He was a second-round NFL Draft pick in 2012 of the New York Giants. He played there for four years before bouncing around the league and then finally to the CFL. He finished his pro career with 188 catches and 20 touchdowns.
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2010 – SEANTREL HENDERSON
Henderson originally signed with USC but when the Trojans were hit with NCAA penalties stemming from the Reggie Bush investigation, the five-star offensive lineman backed out of that decision and headed to Miami. He had an up-and-down career at Miami and numerous off-the-field issues that led to suspensions or time away from the team along with other circumstances. Henderson ended up as a seventh-round pick and played in the NFL from 2014-19. He’s now playing in the CFL.
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2011 – CURTIS GRANT
Ranked only behind Jadeveon Clowney, one of the best No. 1 prospects in Rivals history, Grant was a physical linebacker who could run and he picked Ohio State over North Carolina, Florida and many others. Grant had two strong seasons with the Buckeyes and totaled 132 tackles in his career but went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft. Over three seasons in the NFL, Grant bounced around to six teams and has been out of the league since 2017.
2012 – D.J. HUMPHRIES
Humphries was ranked behind only five-star wide receiver Dorial Green Beckham and the Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek standout picked Florida over Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and others. He had an injury-plagued career for the Gators but dominated when he was on the field and ended up as the No. 24 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals where he still plays to this day.
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2013 – VERNON HARGREAVES III
Florida was announced as Hargreaves’ leader among a top five and then he visited Gainesville one last time before committing to the Gators over Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. In three seasons at Florida – and playing for Will Muschamp and then Jim McElwain – Hargreaves totaled 121 tackles and 10 interceptions. He was the No. 11 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now the Houston Texans, Hargreaves has 258 tackles and three picks so far in his career.
2014 – MYLES GARRETT
In retrospect, Garrett could have easily ended up No. 1 overall in front of Da’Shawn Hand especially after a dominant Under Armour All-America Game but he finished second in the rankings. Texas A&M was always considered the favorite and the five-star defensive end committed in the middle of his senior year. Following three dominant years in College Station where he totaled 31 sacks and seven forced fumbles, Garrett was the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Garrett has been excellent for the Cleveland Browns, too, where he has 152 tackles and 42.5 sacks in his first four seasons.
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2015 – JOSH ROSEN
In March of his junior year, Rosen committed to UCLA as the Bruins emerged as the front-runner over Michigan and others. He wanted to go to Stanford but the Cardinal never offered as he and coach David Shaw did not seem to connect off the field. He set records at UCLA and finished with 9,341 passing yards and 59 touchdowns in three seasons and then was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft where he famously said nine mistakes were made ahead of him. Shortly into his NFL career, Rosen earned the starting job with the Arizona Cardinals but after a coaching change and drafting Kyler Murray, Rosen was shipped out and has bounced around the league. He’s now with the San Francisco 49ers.
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2016 – DEXTER LAWRENCE
Florida was considered Lawrence’s favorite team growing up but Clemson beat out the Gators, Alabama, Ohio State, North Carolina and NC State for his services. In three seasons with the Tigers, Lawrence registered 131 tackles and 10 sacks but his numbers dipped following his freshman campaign. Still, Lawrence was the No. 17 overall draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and he still plays for the New York Giants.
2017 – MARVIN WILSON
Ranked second in the 2017 class behind Alabama RB Najee Harris, Wilson picked Florida State over LSU, Ohio State and others even though the Tigers were considered to have a slight edge heading into his decision. Wilson has totaled 109 tackles and 9.5 sacks in four seasons at Florida State and went undrafted in the 2021 NFL Draft.
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2018 – JUSTIN FIELDS
An early Penn State commit, FIelds backed off that pledge and ended up signing at Georga. But the five-star quarterback was not used much as Jake Fromm was the starter and Fields transferred to Ohio State. That’s where he had two phenomenal seasons and was twice a Big Ten champion and one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Fields, who was ranked behind only Trevor Lawrence, is projected as one of top QBs in this NFL Draft and could go in the first few picks as the quarterback board gets worked out.
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2019 – NOLAN SMITH
Even though Clemson, Alabama, Penn State and others pushed, Smith stuck with Georgia and the Bulldogs won out in his recruitment. His first two seasons have been solid if not spectacular at Georgia where he has totaled 39 tackles and five sacks on a loaded defense. Ranked behind only Derek Stingley Jr., Smith should emerge as one of Georgia’s top defenders this season.
2020 – BRYCE YOUNG
There was some hesitancy in moving Young to five-star status because of his size but after dominating so many events and having a phenomenal senior season, Young moved to No. 2 overall in the final rankings release following the All-American Bowl. He was Mac Jones’ backup last season and is expected to be the Crimson Tide starter in the fall. An early USC commitment, Young flipped to Alabama in September of his senior year.
2021 – JC LATHAM
Latham, originally from Wisconsin, committed to Alabama in the summer before his senior season at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy over LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia and others. He’s repping with the second team at right tackle for the Crimson Tide. Only LSU signee Maason Smith was ranked higher than Latham in the 2021 class.